YC Pulley Ridge Lite, Intoxicating!
On my only Tortugas trip of the season, I wisely decided not to enter the pool as big black groupers were munching at the stern, making my catch look like guppies. Which brings us to the calming of the seas, for the third time allowing us to venture to the far reaches of the Gulf of Mexico, quite close to the edge of the earth. With no expectations, but an obligation to at least try, I quickly passed Brian, the mate, a twenty thus entering the fish pool, once again defending my title in the Yankee Capts MMA. (Mixed Mutton Anglers)
What a mixed crowd! A family group of 8 Oriental men, fishing with ultra light gear, Arnez J, famous comedian, with his body guard, John and his groupie, Caesar, J P and Amanda, dedicated jiggers and owners of an impressive head boat operation in New England, plus a number of permanent residents of the other end of the boat from where I fish.
I met Mr D., (the only response he would tell me when I asked his name and he refused to shake my hand)...my pulpit mate, another jigger, with only one prior appearance on the YC and no Pulley Ridge experience. Mr D. schmoozed me with compliments on my fishing stories and then plied all of my fishing secrets from my cautiously guarded arsenal, then he turned off his recording device and retired to study his pirated data. Huh! My first **** for the trip.
Monday, March 28, 6 PM sharp, the Yankee Capts purred out of harbor and with the thought that we may visit new territory, numbers that were HOT, given to Capt Greg by a friend, I tried to sleep. ****, couldn't sleep but a mere three hours on an eleven hour steam.
First drift, 5 AM, no sign of Mr D. beside me, HUH, he was jigging with the other jiggers on the starboard side yet, never to be seen on the pulpit again! A rapid slapping of tail on the deck caused me to turn from the fish that was mauling me, only to observe a 20 pound tuna pounding out it's last objections and a sly grin from it's captor, Mr D., landing the first fish of the trip only moments before my 18 pound tuna hit the floor. Muttons were appearing with frequency, a great start! By 10 AM I had a tuna and three mutts, a great beginning, but the bite slowed. Noonish, I went for an hours nap and returned to find a slow bite. A small front passed through, dropping the temperature and pushing up waves and Capt Greg steamed off to better bottom, while I napped another hour.
The jiggers and others were hauling up beasts, red groupers, king mackerel, amberjacks, almacos, muttons, lots of them! I was into a beast of my own, not a shark, not a jack, had to be a good one. Then something gave. All of my knots held, no broken line, then half of a hook appeared. The weakest link was the bargain brand hook I chose to save a few bucks on, by not buying the regular Owner hooks I use. A few nice muttons entered my cooler, then another big hit, this time a big Queen trigger fish, deflated and returned, only to float away. By midnight, there were only a small handful of fishers, so I moved off of the heaving pulpit and took up residence midway toward the stern, starboard side.
Using whole squid and a small piece of frozen mackerel to hold it on, ignoring the frequent flyer fish, (too rough to dip net, not safe, too tired, legs sore from standing all day) I landed a mutton, then Amanda got one, then me, then Amanda, back and forth, taking turns, till I had four in a very short period of time and the tuna attack started. Back to the pulpit I went, past Mr D., calmly avoiding his heap of quivering tunas bleeding out near the bow, almost certain that he flipped me the middle finger as I went past. I got one, then something bit the hook off and I didn't notice till Brian pointed it out. Got another and two kings then no hook again! ****!!!
Picked out another pretty pink jig, dropped it and some SOB mackerel inhaled it on the way down, wire leader and all! Jig gone! Ok, enough tuna, back to catching muttons. Stayed on the pulpit, the slapping of tuna tails somehow had awakened the sleeping majority, who were now jigging away like crazy while I captured a few more muttons, a grouper on squid/mackerel and a half dozen flying fish went into my net. Around three or four AM, with a slow bite, mate Matt stopped by for a few minutes. I told him "I need a coffee to keep me awake and if I don't hook a mutton in 15 seconds, I'm quitting." I counted to myself and precisely 15 seconds later, I hooked a mutton while Matt calmly muttered ****!
Daylight bite was slow, who can figure out when and why fish will bite? The only solution is to be at the rail when the bite turns on, per Capt Greg.
The jiggers were at it again! Big fish and lots of them! I was getting an occasional mutton and took my third, hour long nap of the trip, about noon. Totally could not recount how many mutts I had, but I could be nearing my personal best of 19. The mates had deployed the sea anchor to slow our drift, but it complicated the position of all of the fishing lines. Better to have a few tangles than no fishing! Mid afternoon, I nailed a nice grouper and a mutton as soon as we arrived at a new spot, then another Queen trigger. Hooked up on another mutton, I fought it with resistance from tangled lines, lots of lines! It came to the surface and horrors! I saw my hook pop out of it's mouth as it came on top and the mutton floated under the pulpit and out to the other side. Mate Scott deftly gaffed it and we noticed a jig stuck to it's cheek after all the other lines were cleared away. Ok, it goes to the jig guy, right? I looked at my hook and noticed it was broken in half, yet again! So if my hook is still in the fish, it could be mine?... After shoving a flash light down it's throat and probing it with a hook remover, no half hook appeared, (but there was blood visible in it's gullet) and overhearing the jig guy say it was his first fish of the day, I immediately called off the full autopsy and said "That mutton is yours!" He was happy!
Capt Greg let us fish past sunset and with a few final muttons sneaking past the giant sharks that were cruising around wondering what all the lights were about, I quit, dumped my remaining bait and went to sleep, finally!
Back at the dock about 8 or 9 AM, I struggled to keep track of my mutton count, take pictures, not fall down from the heaving of the unstable ground and avoid looking at Mr D., who was proudly watching his three huge coolers overflow with all of his trophy fish caught on a little jig, on a frigging bass rod! Unable to keep count past 15 of my own muttons and thinking I was short of my goal of 20, by at least a couple and knowing that the best man had stripped me of my MMA title in every round we fought, I watched the big fish weigh in then headed home. David had caught at least four or five fish bigger than any of mine and I think the pool winner was a king he caught that had ten inches missing from it's tail end.
Lots of cudas hanging out around the sea anchor and they were observed gnawing the tails off muttons just before gaffing! ****!
Back at the Jolly Roger, my trusty fish cleaning crew assembled and as we laid out the catch for photos, Dang counted my muttons and said there were twenty. I couldn't believe my ears! I counted and recounted then smiled for three hours. I had beaten my personal best! Better than winning the pool!
What a great way to finish up my season on the Yankee Capts. A couple more solo trips on the Grunt Queen then home to Nova Scotia!
Thanks for reading.